On Wed, Jan 16, the introductory meeting of our advisory committee took place at the Hunter College Silberman School in East Harlem. As part of our studio work, we have invited stakeholders ranging from agency representatives to community partners to advise us, provide feedback on our work and to help us take many perspectives into consideration. This committee will also help us gather information from the community and help spread the word about public meetings.
Turnout for the meeting was great, and there was an exceptional flow of ideas. Students Jeff Peel and Jordan Pender facilitated the meeting and gave a brief overview of the research done thus far. In an opening exercise, the moderator asked the group to each list one thing they would change about the Esplanade or East Harlem, with respect to open space/green infrastructure.
The conversation generated thought-provoking responses and ideas that ranged from the immediate to the long term. There were many comments about the FDR, which is a huge physical barrier to the Esplanade and the waterfront. One committee member suggested replacing the highway with an urban forest or community park space, and another suggested building a “decking” structure above it. Another member wanted to get kids more active with sports or other programmatic activities in the neighborhood. Quite a few voiced a desire to make the natural features and aquatic life of the river more prominent, including a particularly stirring moment when one member vividly recounted a plan for plantings that would represent the seasons. Finally, a number of committee members expressed interest in finding ways to increase access and visibility through signage and exploring waterfront transportation options.
The advisory committee then broke into smaller groups to discuss a few important questions, such as “How we can address day-to-day neighborhood concerns through the themes of our studio?” and “What immediate short-term actions can be taken?” We will work to clarify the connection between residents’ well‐being and community benefits with the goals of the studio as we move forward.
- Lucian Reynolds (TreesNY)
- Frances Mastrota (Community Board 11)
- Hunter Armstrong (CIVITAS)
- Robert Bennaton (NYCHA, Garden and Greening Program)
- Drew King (of Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito’s office)
- Walter Roberts (HOPE Community Inc.)
- Mary Kimball (NYC Dept of City Planning)
- Bill Woods (NYC Department of City Planning—retired)
- Jennifer Gardner (Manhattan Borough President’s Office)
- Lynn Roberts (Hunter College School of Public Health)
- Richard Toussaint (Community Directed Ownership, Inc.)
- Jessica Feldman (New Yorkers for Parks)
- Nette Compton (NYC Parks Dept, Green Infrastructure)
- Marcha Johnson (NYC Parks Dept, Capital)
- Charles McKinney (NYC Parks Dept, Planning & Parklands)
- Henry Calderón (Chair, East Harlem Chamber of Commerce)
- Charlie Reynoso (New York Restoration Project)